I absolutely love sharp flavours. I love the sour tang of a fizzy sweet or a slice of lemon tart, my salad dressings are always strong with lemon juice or vinegar or both, and don’t even try giving me a fish supper without a pickled onion on the side. Pickles are the ideal antidote to a craving for something sharp and sour, and they come in any variety you could want: onions, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, walnuts, beetroots, the mysterious pickled egg (which I am yet to try…it seems a pickle too far to me but do correct me if I’m wrong). Pickling is also a fantastic way to preserve fresh vegetables either if you have a huge glut or if you’re a small household, like us.
I got a bag of home-grown fresh beetroot from my dad a couple of weeks ago, but with only two of us in the house, one of us feeling very under the weather and the weeks menu already planned and bought I wasn’t sure where to incorporate these beautiful little vegetables into our meals. Pickling it was. A jar of pickled vegetables will keep extremely well in the fridge for several months, if not longer. Just make sure that you sterilise the jar before filling – wash the jar in hot soapy water, fill to the brim with boiling water and then drain and leave upside down in a warm oven or on the counter top to air dry completely.
One year ago:
– Pasta carbonara
Ingredients (makes one large jar) 500g beetroot 300ml white wine vinegar 200ml water 200g light brown sugar 2 bay leaves 3 whole cloves 1 tsp peppercorns 1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp course sea salt
Method 1. Give the beetroots a scrub under cold water if they still have earth on them, and trim the leaves and roots. Place in a large pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the beetroots, until a sharp knife can be easily inserted.
As the Starks are so keen to tell us, Winter Is Coming. And they’re not wrong, but first we have my favourite season of the year to enjoy: Autumn. For the next few months plums in the UK are at their prime and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and flavours and colours. There are tiny, intensely sweet greengages or plump, juicy Black Amber and Denniston’s Superb varieties or dark indigo-blue damsons with their sharp, distinctive flavour. One of the most commonly available plums in our shops and supermarkets is the Victoria plum. Oval in shape and red or yellow in colour, Victoria plums are sweet and have a firm texture so are perfect both eaten straight out the fruit bowl or used for baking.
Almonds are a perfect pairing with the sweet and sharp flavour of plum, so a frangipane tart seemed like an ideal way to incorporate this seasonal fruit into some baking. Frangipane is a sweet filling used in cakes and pastries, which combines ground almonds with butter, sugar and eggs, and sometimes a little flour or flavourings like vanilla or alcoholic liquors. When cooked in a tart frangipane puffs up in a most satisfying way to create a light, moist filling.
I first made this tart a couple of weeks ago, and by happy coincidence the following weeks Great British Bake Off episode (only the best television show ever amirite?) was pastry themed, and what did they have to make in the first challenge but frangipane tarts. This inspired me to add a layer of jam between the pastry and frangipane filling when I made the tart again last weekend. The addition got a resounding thumbs up from the lucky taste-testers. Finally, since frangipane requires a fairly long bake, there’s no need to blind bake the pastry first. Of course, we don’t want any soggy bottoms here, but we also don’t want burnt pastry. Paul Hollywood would not be happy, and that thought is scary enough, let alone imagining Mary Berry’s disapproving face.
One year ago:
– Dark chocolate mousse
Ingredients (makes a 28cm tart) 500g shortcrust pastry 12 small Victoria plums (about 400-450g) 100g unsalted butter, softened 100g caster sugar 2 eggs, beaten 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp plain flour 100g ground almonds Optional: 2-3 tbsp plum jam
Crème fraiche to serve
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is just bigger than the tart case and about half a centimeter thick.
The first time I made this recipe (shown in the picture) I went very thin with the pastry, so it was almost see-through, but I think it’s better to keep it a little thicker so the tart has a good, solid base and you can appreciate the short, crumbly texture of the pastry.
2. Carefully place the sheet of pastry into the tart case – drape it over your rolling pin and use this to lift it up and over. Gently, but firmly press the pastry into the case. I tear a little pastry from a corner, roll it into a ball and use this to press the pastry into all the edges, so that my nails don’t puncture the delicate pastry.
3. Trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife, prick the base with a fork and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Halve and stone the plums.
5. Place the soft butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
6. Pour in the eggs a bit at a time, beating well in between each addition until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and flour and mix well again.
7. Fold the almonds through the mixture, ensuring they are evenly combined.
8. If using the jam, then spread a thin layer on top of the chilled pastry. Next carefully spread out the frangipane mixture into an even layer.
9. Arrange the plums on the top of the tart, cut side down, and push gently into the frangipane.
10. Place the tart on a large baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the frangipane filling has risen, the surface is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the frangipane. Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm or cool with some thick, creamy crème fraiche. The tart will keep for a few days in an airtight container, though it is best eaten on the day it’s made so tuck in!
When I was about 3 years old my family spent 3 months in Granada in the south of Spain. My dad was on a sabbatical with work and my mum was still on maternity leave after my little brother and sister had been born. Some of my earliest memories are from our time in Spain – vague, fuzzy recollections of eating jamón sliced off the bone on the balcony of our apartment, rows of kids lined up on the floor for our afternoon siestas at my nursery school and the very specific way that my nursery teacher used to peel fresh oranges (still known to this day as “The Mercedes Way” in our household). To help with all the children at home we had a live-in au-pair, a Spanish woman called Coco, and this is one of her recipes. It’s a rich, hearty stew and despite its peasant origins the dish has bags and bags (and bags) of flavour.
To get the depth of flavour in this dish you really need to get the right bit of Serrano ham – not the light meat which is sliced into thin slivers for eating, but the tough, dark meat right next to the bone usually used for stocks. Of course, if you’re living in Spain then getting your hands on this is easy, but it’s a slightly trickier task in the UK. Try Spanish or Mexican (or other) delis or even the deli counter at your local supermarket – they might do you a nice deal on this part of the ham. In my area of Edinburgh I was struggling to find the meat when I struck the jackpot at the tapas restaurant Tápame. The lovely chef there very kindly gave me a whole Serrano ham bone, which not only had plenty of dark meat on it but also added the most delicious, decadent flavour to the stew. You don’t need to add a bone to the stew – it isn’t included in Coco’s original recipe – but lucky you if you can find one! Be careful about adding salt if you use a bone – you probably won’t need to add any extra salt at all. If you can’t find any dark meat at all, then you can still use slices of the lighter ham, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.
Broad beans are in season right now, and won’t last much longer than the month, so get out to your local green grocers and get cooking!
One year ago:
– Mini puff pastry apple pies
Ingredients (serves two as a main course, or more as part of a spread of tapas) 150-200g dark serrano ham (or a 500g bone, with meat) 1.5-2kg fresh broad beans still in their pods (about 500-600g once podded) 6-8 large Spanish spring onions or 1 white onion 2 garlic cloves Extra virgin olive oil Small glass of white wine Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Optional to serve: fresh bread and poached eggs
Method 1. If you have managed to get your mitts on a gorgeous serrano ham bone then remove as much of the tough, dark meat as possible. You will need a small, very sharp knife to do this – I actually used my Swiss Army pen knife. If you have bought a chunk of meat then simply chop into small pieces.
2. Pod the broad beans (one of the most therapeutic kitchen tasks) and set aside for later.
3. Chop the onions and finely chop the garlic cloves.
4. Heat about 4 tbsp of good quality olive oil in a pan (large enough to hold the ham bone if you are using one). Add the onions and garlic and gently fry on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.
5. Stir in the serrano ham, and continue to cook gently for about 5 minutes.
6. Add the broad beans to the pot and stir to coat well in the oil. Increase the heat and pour in the wine, allowing it to bubble for a couple of minutes.
7. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting possible and nestle the ham bone amongst the beans. Cover the pan with a lid and cook very slowly for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the stew while it cooks and if it looks particularly dry add a splash of water.
8. Taste and season with black pepper (and salt, if necessary). Serve immediately, or leave to cool and reheat later. This can be kept in the fridge, or even the freezer, if you want to make it in advance.
9. To serve, gently poach 2 eggs (I managed to find some incredible duck eggs at our local organic shop) and slice some crusty bread to soak up all the delicious liquid at the bottom of the stew.
Summer pudding is one of my all-time favourite desserts; I think it could even give the chocolate fondant a run for its money. The pudding has a nostalgic, exciting feeling for me, partly because it meant that the berries and currants at my dad’s allotment were ripe and ready to be used which in turn signaled that summer was well and truly here, but also because I think it’s the first properly impressive pudding that I learnt to make. It’s a sinfully easy recipe, but turning out a perfectly set pudding and slicing into the stunning pink exterior to reveal the jumble of different summer berries inside is a very satisfying feeling indeed.
This is based on a Katie Stuart recipe (the kitchen goddess that our household regularly turn to for instruction, and who I’ve mentioned many times before), though she makes one large pudding to serve about 6 people. If you’re feeding a crowd then I’d highly recommend this – just double to quantities of fruit and sugar below to fill a 2 pint pudding basin (about 1.1 litres) and you will need to use a bit more of the loaf of bread. If, like me, you’re catering for less people then these make the cutest little treats.
A few tips before we begin: make sure you do use stale bread, so remember to buy a loaf in advance. I bought mine two days before I made these and it worked perfectly. Use whatever combination of summer berries that you prefer or have available, but try to use more redcurrants than other berries. For example, I used 180g redcurrants, 100g raspberries, 100g blackcurrants and 70g raspberries. Katie Stuart recommends 450g redcurrants, 225g raspberries and 225g strawberries for one large pudding (double this recipe). You do need to leave the puddings in the fridge overnight so that they set properly so no short cuts here I’m afraid! Inevitably you will be left with crusts and small cuttings from the slices of bread – throw them into a food processor or blender and blitz to breadcrumbs. They can be stored in airtight containers in the freezer for months and used as you require for recipes.
One year ago:
– Stuffed courgettes
Ingredients (makes 3 individual puddings) One loaf of stale white bread (you will use about half of it – the rest will make perfect toast!) 450g summer berries 70g castor sugar
Crème fraiche and extra berries to serve
Method 1. Rinse 3 small pudding basins (150ml capacity each) with cold water and thinly cut about half the loaf into 1cm slices – you can always cut more later if you need it.
2. Trim the crusts from the slices of bread and cut 6 circles – 3 small circles for the bottom of the bowls and 3 larger ones to cover the top – and enough wedges to cover the sides of the basins. Firmly press the small circles into the bottom of the basins and do the same with the wedges round the sides. Make sure there are no gaps at all in the bread lining and plug any with small pieces of the leftover bread.
3. Put the fruit and sugar into a small saucepan and cover with a lid. Place over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until the fruit has softened.
4. Spoon the hot fruit into the pots, ensuring an even distribution of the different types of berries. Fill the basins right to the top, pouring over as much of the juice as possible.
If you have any extra juice left at the end then don’t throw it away – you can pour a little extra liquid over the puddings once they are turned out, especially useful if there are any little pieces of bread that haven’t been completely soaked through.
5. Place the basins on a large plate or tray (some of the juice will probably spill over the top so this keeps your fridge shelves clean!) and gently press the last 3 circles of bread on top of the puddings.
6. Put small plates or saucers on top of each pudding and weight down with tins or other suitably-sized heavy objects. Refrigerate the puddings at least overnight.
7. When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each of the puddings and tip out onto small plates. If you have saved some, spoon over a little extra juice.
Serve with a generous dollop of crème fraiche and a few fresh berries or currants.
Sweet, soft, sharp and undeniably summery.
What do you like to do with summer berries? Do you have any favourite, nostalgic puddings?
Does a recipe need much more introduction than that video…? Probably not, but I’ll give you one anyway. Back in June I mentioned that I was going to France for a couple of weeks, and that I would be attempting to eat and drink all the cheese and wine that the country had to offer. Well, we put in a good effort and ate like kings (or queens) for two weeks. We had delicious homemade meals expertly cooked by my Grandpa, dined on fresh local seafood on the island of Houat, tried regional specialties like gallettes and cidre royal in Normandy and had the most simple lunch picnics by the side of the road that were turned gourmet due to the amazing quality of the ingredients – fresh baguette, perfectly ripe tomatoes and soft, melty cheese (thanks to the heat!).
By far the best meal we had out was in a small town in Normandy called Sainte-Mère-Église. Although it’s small, Sainte-Mère-Église is well-known and gets a lot of day visitors. This is partly because it was the first village to be liberated on D-Day, but also thanks to the incident involving the American paratrooper John Steele. In the very early hours of the morning on D-Day about 13,000 paratroopers of the Airborne Division of the US Army dropped into Normandy. The parachute of one particular paratrooper, 31-year-old John Steele, became tangled in one of the church spires, leaving him dangling on the side of the church. Despite playing dead, he was cut down and take prisoner by German soldiers, but he managed to escape a few days later and re-join his division to continue fighting through France. John survived the war and regularly went back to visit Sainte-Mère-Église during his life. He was made an honorary citizen of the town and had a statue erected in his honour – a model of a man, parachute attached, hanging from the church steeple. On our last night in Sainte-Mère-Église we ate at the Auberge John Steele, which is named after the soldier and was recommended to us by my parents. And so this is all a very long way round of saying that I had the best dauphinoise potatoes of my life at this restaurant! They were just the side to my main dish of steak and mushrooms, but I decided right then that I had to recreate them when I got home. So here we are: my version of the most indulgent, rich, creamy side dish you could ever ask for…
One year ago:
– Hot redcurrant and raspberry mousse
Ingredients (serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!) Butter for greasing 400g (about 2 large) floury potatoes e.g. Maris Piper, Red Rooster or King Edward 150ml double cream 100ml milk 1 garlic clove Fresh nutmeg Salt and pepper
15g parmesan, grated
Method 1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Grease an ovenproof dish well with a little butter.
2. Peel and thinly slice the potatoes to roughly the width of a £1 coin, or thinner if your knife skills allows. You could also use a mandolin or a food processor with a slicer attachment. Don’t wash the slices potatoes as you want them to retain all their starch to help thicken the cream sauce.
3. Pour the cream and milk into a large saucepan and add the whole garlic clove, lightly crushed with the back of a knife. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the potatoes to the cream and stir well to coat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your slices, until the potatoes are just cooked. Give the pan a gentle shake as the potatoes cook so that they don’t stick together or catch on the bottom of the pan. The sauce will begin to thicken from the starch in the potatoes.
5. Remove the potatoes with a slotted or wide spoon and carefully place in layers in your dish. Pour over any remaining cream sauce (remembering to discard the garlic clove!).
6. Sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and browned on top – increase the heat for another 5 minutes until the top is crispy enough to your liking.
Leave the dish to stand for at least 5-10 minutes after baking, while you get the rest of your meal prepared. Don’t worry – the dish will stay piping hot, but this allows the hot, bubbling potatoes to settle and makes it easier to slice and spoon out portions.
Serve with any meat of your choice, though I’d recommend steering clear of any cream sauces, since this is such a rich, indulgent side dish! We had ours with this BBC Good Food recipe for chicken with mushrooms and peas, and a glass of crisp white wine. Perfect Sunday evening comfort food. Santé!
Something strange happened to our chilli plant. It went on holiday to my parents’ house for two weeks (while we holidayed in France for two weeks), and while sunning itself in their conservatory our humble little green jalapeños turned red! We bought the plant early last summer and had a generous crop of mild, but delicious jalapeño peppers for months. It stopped flowering over winter, but came back with gusto this summer and we began to use the green chillies again. I don’t know if the plant needed time to mature, or if it was the intense sun and warmth of the conservatory, but either way we returned to a glamorous plant bejewelled with fiery red chillies…
We’ve used some of the red chillies in stir-fries and curries, or fried them with garlic and kale for a simple side dish, but we used the final one (for now) to flavour this gorgeous chicken tagine. This is an amalgamation of a few different tagine recipes, and is also inspired by a tagine I was served by friends and one we had in our riad in Marrakech last November. It combines sweet honey, sharp preserved lemons, hot chilli and salty olives with succulent chicken legs and, with the essential addition of ras el hanout (a North African blend of spices), feels like an exotic treat. It’s a great dish for serving a large group, but the chicken is also perfect as leftovers for lunch salads or sandwiches during the week. My favourite bit is the plentiful gravy that surrounds the chicken legs by the end of cooking, and in my opinion requires a great hunk of crusty bread for dipping.
One year ago:
– Fennel and courgette salad (using red chilli, funnily enough!)
– Spanish prawns and chorizo
Ingredients (serves 4-5) 5 chicken legs (skin on) 4 small cloves of garlic, crushed Thumb-size piece of ginger, grated 1 tbsp runny honey 1 tbsp cumin ½ tsp turmeric 1 generous tsp ras el hanout 1 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 5 tbsp olive oil 2 small white onions 1 red chilli 1 medium tomato 7 half slices of preserved lemons 15 green olives
Method 1. Place the chicken in a large bowl or tub (or the container it came in!) and add the marinade ingredients (garlic, ginger, honey, cumin, turmeric, ras el hanout, salt, pepper and olive oil).
Mix very well so all the chicken is coated and then cover and set aside to marinade at room temperature for as long as you can – at least an hour is ideal, but you can prepare as far in advance as the night before (in this case put the chicken in the fridge overnight but remember to take it out a few hours before cooking so it can come back to room temperature).
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Thinly slice the onions and place at the bottom of your tagine.
3. Prepare the chilli and tomato – deseed both and thinly slice.
4. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and brown the chicken legs on both sides over a medium heat. You might need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Don’t worry if the skin looks a bit black – this is the sugar in the honey caramelising – just don’t actually burn the flesh!
5. Arrange the chicken legs on top of the sliced onions in the tagine.
6. Scatter over the chilli, tomato, lemons and olives and pour in the water.
7. Place the lid on the tagine and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Take the tagine straight to the table for dramatic effect, and serve with fresh, crusty bread or a big bowl of couscous, and a herby green salad.
If you’ve never eaten a chilled soup before, you’re going to just have to go with me on this one. It might seem very strange, or even off-putting, to those who have never tried it before, but believe me when I say that you are missing out and need to rectify that ASAP. Gazpacho, a southern Spanish tomato soup, is probably the most famous of the chilled soup family and it is one of my all-time favourite recipes. There are slight variations in ingredients and methods between the recipes available (some including peppers or bread, some soaking the ingredients overnight before blending, some adding stock or basil at the end), but this simple recipe is the one that my family has always used, passed down from my mum’s mum, and it is the best there is (unbiased family opinion).
Gazpacho makes use of the fresh, young allium produce that are available during the late summer. If you can’t get your hands on any young red onions or “green” garlic, as it is sometimes called, then you can use the regular varieties though you may want slightly reduce the quantity you add to the soup as it will be stronger and sharper in flavour. Err on the side of caution, since you can always add more in after the first blend, but you can’t take it back out at the end! This is the perfect seasonal recipe for a light lunch or supper, or to serve as a starter at a summer dinner party. However, I can also highly recommend having a large bowl of the soup the day after a night of excess – it’s zingy and refreshing, is reminiscent of comfort-food-hero hot tomato soup, has a high water content and is packed with vitamins.
One year ago:
– Refreshing watermelon salad
Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings) 450g ripe tomatoes ½ a cucumber 1 medium young red onion 3 cloves young garlic 450ml tomato juice 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp white wine vinegar Salt and pepper
Green bell pepper and breadsticks or croutons to serve
Method 1. Begin by peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is to plunge the tomatoes into a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds.
Remove and drain – the skin may already have started to blister – and leave to cool for a few minutes.
The skin should now very easily peel away, and then the tomatoes can be cut in half and the seeds either cut or scraped out.
2. Roughly chop the cucumber (including the peel and seeds), red onion and garlic and place in a large bowl.
3. Add the peeled and deseeded tomatoes to the bowl, roughly chopped.
4. Pour in the tomato juice, and add the olive oil, white wine vinegar and a generous season of salt and pepper.
5. Use a hand blender to blend the ingredients together. I like to keep the soup just a little bit chunky, but you can blend until you have the consistency you want – for a very smooth texture you will need to pass the mixture through a sieve. Taste the soup for seasoning (including vinegar, onion and garlic, not just salt and pepper) and adjust if necessary.
6. Chill the soup for at least 2 or 3 hours – this step is very important, so don’t skip it unless you are incredibly short on time, in which case having the tomato juice already chilled in the fridge is a top tip from my mum.
Serve the soup chilled, in chilled bowls if you’re feeling extra fancy. Top with diced green pepper and, traditionally, homemade croutons either baked or fried in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. At home we always just broke up breadsticks to scatter over the soup, which is far less effort and a little healthier too. This time we spotted a box of olive oil crostini at the shops, which worked perfectly too.
This soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days, the flavours mingling and only improving with time.
Have you eaten chilled soups before, and if so what is your favourite type? Do you have your own gazpacho recipe? – I’d love to hear about it below!…